James Ball

Priti Patel’s war on encryption is doomed

Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The modern world has an unfortunate habit of making life difficult for those working to keep us safe. For the police, security services and others, so many inventions seem to be created just to make it more difficult for them to see who’s up to no good. 

Take envelopes, for one. Envelopes make it much fiddlier to see what’s in the letters we send to one another – and they could show anything: that envelope could contain financial fraud, revenge porn, or even be plotting a murder. What is it hiding?

Modern Britain is unreasonable to state snoopers in so many other ways too. Inconsiderately we put locks on our doors, with no regard for how much more difficult this will make things if the authorities need to get into our home. We have conversations in private, without either reporting back their contents to the government or letting them record it. And outrageously, we treat all of this as if it’s just… normal.

In the offline world, we accept the existence of locks, walls and private conversations because it would be insane not to do so. But that’s what the Home Office is asking us to do with our online existences – by launching yet another new salvo in its endless war on encryption.

Priti Patel has become the latest in a long line of Home Secretaries to be lulled into pushing an idiotic agenda by her dysfunctional and sclerotic department. Relying on the popular misconception that ‘encryption’ is something new and therefore scary, Patel and the Home Office plan to launch an advertising campaign which criticises Facebook for daring to use end-to-end encryption for its messages.

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Written by
James Ball
James Ball is the Global Editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which last month launched a two-year project looking into Russian infiltration of the UK elite and in London’s role in enabling overseas corruption

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